Although the modern history of Christmas beer is basically related to beer market and its sale in United States and in different parts of the world, the real heritage of brewing significant beers for Christmas’s time is based upon many deep traditions.
This tradition is perhaps strongly claimed by Scandinavian countries. A strong and malty beer was enjoyed by the Vikings while celebrating Jul – or Yule. It is their festival on December 21 which involves them to ‘drink Jul’ where drafts are proposed to Frey, Odin and different Norse gods.
In fact, when Christianity was declared as an official religion, the Christmas beer brewing was incorporated in the law: the king of Norway, king Haakon I (‘The Good’, c. 920-961) mandated that every household should brew a portion of beer to Jul, and now it has moved some days ahead and mixed together with Christmas. This tradition was far and wide continued by Gulathing Laws, written in 13th century (although it is assumed to be created long before), which like the previous orders required that every peasant household should brew Christmas beer and hold some sort of party, but this law outlined particular penalties for those who fail to do so. There were punishments like fines and property loss for all those who evaded their responsibilities of brewing.
Denmark and Sweden were very much enthusiastic about their brewing holiday and drinking, and this enthusiasm has lasted from early times till now. In fact, the 1st amongst the Europeans were Swedes who in 17th century brought the Christmas’s beer tradition towards North America.
The commercial production of Christmas beers from Scandinavia started seriously in late 19th and early 20th century, but the story keeps going on today; the modern brewers of Scandinavia, even who produce a bit beyond the general lagers for the remaining year, continue brewing Jul and Julebryg for the Christmas – or for the revival of Jul.
The event of Christmas brewing in Scandinavia doesn’t go unnoticed anywhere; in 1804, the brewing traditions during Scandinavian holiday was noticed by an unknown British correspondent as something beyond the broad European norms: the Christmas beer.
Of course, the robust holiday beer was not really innovative to Britain – it was memorialized in songs by 1681. And the specific Christmas beers were known to the commercial brewers of the 19th century in Britain.
With the presence of various modern Christmas beers from Belgium, Stella Artois which is amongst the most famous exports of the country, has lost most of its primary seasonal charm. While the present-day marketing positions the now-omnipresent lager as arriving from a medieval period’s brewery, Stella in 1926 appeared and was launched like a Christmas beer and was named – the ‘Artois’ – a storied Christmas star.
Conversely, the origin of British beer which is now a Christmas tradition was different. A Burton ale is what Young’s Winter Warmer originally was and it tasted sweeter and much stronger than its present-day counterpart. Perhaps Samichlaus is the most popular Christmas beer of present time. It came into existence in 1980 in Zurich.
So, this year, while enjoying a Christmas beer, think about some Christmas beers which came prior to it – or like Viking’s prepare your own.